The Amp Hour

#194 – An Interview With Todd Bailey – Embedded Embrasure Engineering

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The Amp Hour

Dave Jones & Chris Gammell

Description: An Electronics Radio Show

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#194 – An Interview With Todd Bailey – Embedded Embrasure Engineering

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Welcome, Todd Bailey of Narrat1ve!

  • Todd grew up with electronics, his dad was an electrical engineer.
  • He got his degree in English Literature from Oberlin.
  • A final class there in electronics introduced him to Horowitz and Hill’s Art of Electronics.
  • After school he got a job in a stereo repair shop and was building amps.
  • He speaks fondly of finding the Jim Williams books. Reminded of the essay “The Importance of Fixing”
  • When Todd left the repair shop he started designing synthesizers, sequences, switches.
  • Then he moved onto the PIC microcontroller, taught himself assembly.
  • He met Dima, now a professor, who offered an interview with a toy company.
  • The company Big Monster Toys in Chicago. Made over 200 prototypes a year(!).
  • The ones that made it to production were a power law distribution. 
  • His first design was to design a “Beast in a bag”. His mentor, “Big brain Todd” eventually told him a shortcut that helped illuminate how to get things done and move onto the next product (don’t listen when the motor is on).
  • After moving on from the toy company, Todd had a wide range of clients: artists and toy customers.
  • He started designing products to sell, including a synth kit and a binary display watch.
  • Then he design “Where The Party At” (WTPA), a synthesizer meant to help people learn electronics.
  • Todd also talked about the classic Bent circuit bending festival.
  • Version 2 is on the shelf and ready to get pushed to production, but he is interested in other problems right now, including consulting.
  • One project he couldn’t talk about was a design for robot doors in marine environment.
  • Todd talked about the experience about doing the engineering for art installations; personal investment in the work seems to be higher for art.
  • Nam June Paik didn’t design the TV Synthesizer specifically, he designed the art around the technology.
  • A more recent personal project has been the Vec9, built on a vector screen from an Asteroids cabinet. It’s unique because the Asteroids controller draws with vectors instead of rasters (like on VGA televisions).
  • Andrew Reitano worked on the FPGA stuff, you can read more about it on his site Batsly Adams
  • For the past few years you could find Todd at the Analog Aficionados dinner, thrown by Paul Rako. Chris hopes to be out there next year.
  • Todd’s image of himself is as an engineer, if someone proved him otherwise, he’d be shaken.
  • Other fun projects recently:
    • A motor driven flying bed that allows extra space in his apartment.
    • A video synthesizer that he showed off at Maker Faire NY

You can reach Todd online at his site @ToddBailey. Thanks to Todd for coming on to share his stories!

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